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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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Visionaries for Peace: A New Model for The Middle East E-mail
Written by Nissim Dahan   
Wednesday, October 20 2010

A Middle East Initiative to Put in Place a New Model for the Middle East, by Inspiring the World's Business and Political Leaders to Embrace a Vision of Hope, to Push the Peace Process Forward from Behind the Scenes, and to help Revitalize the Entire Region with Green Industrial Zones, Good Paying Jobs, Moderate Candidates, and Requisite Institutions, for the Sake of Global Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. 



Executive Summary


The Middle East remains a precarious place. Many nations have invested heavily in that part of the world, putting their precious blood and treasure on the line, but as yet have been unable to bring even a small measure of peace and stability to that troubled region. There are recent developments afoot, including the turmoil on the Arab street and the prospect of a nuclear Iran, which indicate that the Middle East could well slide into an even more precarious place, contrary to the region’s best interests and to the interest of global security as well. And yet, as ironic as it may seem, the very same existential threats which threaten some of the key players in the Middle East, including a nuclear Iran and the man on the street, are also the very same incentives which they have to come together in common purpose.

 

Indeed, it is even possible to imagine a scenario in which some very common existential threats are configured in just the right way, so as to create a mosaic of mutual self-interest. As such, a commonality of interests could be leveraged to create a strategic/economic alliance which would include the Arab states of the Middle East, as well as Israel, Europe and the U.S. The purpose of such an alliance would be two-fold: to secure the region from strategic threats, and to revitalize the region with good paying jobs. Two things in particular will be needed to bring about this favorable outcome: a Vision of Hope which inspires the people of the region and beyond, as well as a consortium of business and political leaders—Visionaries for Peace—who will become inspired to embrace a Vision of Hope, who will work behind the scenes to push the peace process forward, and who will help revitalize the entire Middle East with good paying jobs, requisite institutions and moderate candidates, for the sake of global peace, prosperity, and freedom.

 

Many are working feverishly to promote peace and stability in the Middle East, but so far the “business angle” has been sorely missing, or largely ignored, even as the people cry out for economic opportunities and personal freedoms.  The world’s top business leaders are perhaps best positioned to help bring peace and stability in the face of countless obstacles, and to revitalize the Middle East by creating good paying jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help weaken the hold of extremist thinking. They are also in a position to empower and support moderate candidates, and to undertake the building and funding of institutions which are prerequisites for freedom. An Arab initiative to create a new and vibrant Middle East will not only stabilize the region, and help to keep extremist forces in check, but could also serve to reclaim a sense of Arab dignity and pride. A re-vitalized Middle East could also become an engine for economic growth in the U.S. and beyond; a new market for our goods and services, while creating millions of good paying American jobs in the process. In short, everybody wins. Given what is at stake for the people of the Middle East, for Israel, for the U.S., for the West, for the countries of the region, and for the world as a whole, we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in the search for peace and stability. Visionaries for Peace could be the missing piece that helps give momentum to the peace process by inspiring a few very special visionaries to bestow the legacy of peace, prosperity and freedom to countless generations yet to come.

 

            In short, we can think about the Middle East in terms of three things: the opportunity that now exists for positive change, the vision that will be required to take advantage of the opportunity, and the model that can be used to give substance to the vision. The opportunity for change exists due to the common threats facing some of the key players. The leaders of the region may actually need one another, for a change, to stave off some very common existential threats. A vision will be required to take advantage of the opportunity that now exists, a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. And finally, a model is needed to give substance to the vision, and the model we suggest is Visionaries for Peace, leaders who inspire a sense of hope for the region, and who deliver on that promise with jobs.



I. Introduction

 

            The United States, along with a whole host of other countries around the world, including the nations of the region, have invested untold blood and treasure in the Middle East, and still somehow, peace and stability in that troubled region remain illusory at best. There is turmoil on the Arab street even as we speak, with no clear outcome in sight, and with the possibility of extremist forces gaining an even greater foothold in the region. At times, our policies in the Middle East seem somewhat muddled, and lacking in vision. We often find ourselves reacting haphazardly to random events, as opposed to formulating a clear, concise, convincing and complete vision for the region, and following through in that regard with tangible results. At the same time, however, we sense that much is at stake in the Middle East, and that we ignore the events there at our peril. We also sense that despite our best efforts, the Middle East may well be drifting, ever so gradually, to a bad, precarious and dangerous place. What if anything can be done to maximize the chances for peace and stability, and to inspire the people of the region with a vision of hope for the future, and with a systematic plan to realize that vision?

 

 

II. The Danger of Maintaining the Status Quo

 

            There are indications that the Middle East is in a state of flux and that under the right circumstances, the region could easily realign itself in a way that would be contrary to Western interests, to the interests of the nations of the Middle East, and to the best interests of the people who live there. Many of the key players in the Middle East are facing existential threats which could easily overwhelm them and take them in a negative and dangerous direction.

 

            The ascendancy of Iran as potentially a nuclear power, and as a power determined to achieve hegemony in the region, and to reconfigure the Middle East as it sees fit, is one of the key destabilizing forces in the region, and is playing itself out in various political arenas. Israel, for example, sees a nuclear Iran as an existential threat on several levels: Iran could attack Israel directly, or indirectly by instigating a nuclear arms race in the region, and by using the protective cover of nuclear capability to destabilize existing regimes using proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah. In addition, a nuclear Iran could consolidate its hold on power by suppressing internal dissent and galvanizing support among Arab regimes. Saudi Arabia, and many of the other Sunni states, is gravely concerned about the prospect of a nuclear Iran, especially in the context of a long history of rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis in the Muslim world, and a deepening realization of Iran’s intentions with regard to the Middle East.

 

            Under these circumstances, and considering the increasing turmoil on the streets, allowing the Middle East to drift toward instability would be asking for trouble on a big scale, including inviting a threat to the free flow of oil, exacerbating the threat of worldwide terror, and increasing the chances for all-out war, especially considering that much of the world’s oil supply is on the line. Further instability in the Middle East would thwart any hope of revitalizing the region in any positive and meaningful way, and would block the emergence of peace and stability in the region. Whatever temptation there may be to isolate ourselves from the Middle East should be tempered by our realization of what is at stake for the nations of the region, for Western nations, and for the world as a whole.

 


III. The Opportunity for Change: Using Common Threats to Create a Mosaic of Mutual Self-Interest

 

            Ironically, the very same existential threats which are causing instability in the Middle East are also the same forces which could be harnessed to bring about positive change in the Middle East. Some of the key players in the region are beginning to worry about the same sorts of things, namely, the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and the rage of the man on the street. Israel, for example, sees a nuclear Iran as an existential threat. However, this concern is shared by Saudi Arabia and a great many Sunni states. In addition, all the nations of the region have to worry about the instability on the Arab street, and the threat it poses to individual nations and to regional security. In addition, it is not a stretch to say that instability in the Middle East also threatens worldwide access to oil, on which many economies are dependent. These common interests, which can be thought of as a mosaic of mutual self-interest, could be leveraged to create a strategic/economic alliance, which would include the Arab states, Israel, Europe and the U.S., with two purposes in mind: to keep Iran and other security threats in check, and to revitalize the entire Middle East with jobs.

As such, it is possible to imagine a scenario whereby the existential threats which threaten some of the key players in the Middle East, are in fact used to create a new realignment, a strategic/economic alliance, based on a mosaic of mutual self-interest, with an eye to keeping extremist forces in check, and revitalizing the entire region with good paying jobs. People may come together in this fashion not because they necessarily want to, and certainly not because they love one another, but perhaps because they may finally need one another, for a change, and may have no other choice but to come together in common purpose for the sake of staving off some very common existential threats. The stars may be aligning in just the right way, so that the self-interest of some of the key players in the region is in alignment with the best interest of the region. Let them first come together out of dire necessity, and after a while, with people making money together, and providing security for one another, it could well grow into something much more.  


IV. The Vision that will be Required: A Vision of Hope

 

            A multi-faceted challenge requires a multi-faceted response. Extremism threatens the entire world order, regardless of where it is to be found, and which religion the extremist happen to subscribe to. We need a vision that inspires in people a sense of hope, and that delivers on that promise with jobs. We need a vision that wins hearts and minds, and that weakens the hold of extremist thinking. A good vision for us to embrace will be a vision which puts together all the pieces of a possible solution to our most intractable problems—the Economy, the Environment, and Extremism—which packages those pieces in the most compelling and attractive way possible, and which allows us to sell that vision to the man on the street. We call that vision a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom, which has five parts to it, like the five fingers of your hand. In a very real sense, it could well be argued that the answer to world peace lies in the palm of our hand:

 

1. Ideology: If the ideological extremist, wherever he is to be found, and whatever religious tradition he happens to subscribe to, uses extremist ideology to consolidate his hold on political power, we will use An Ideology of Common Sense, a new framework for rational discourse based on common sense principles, to speak to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. In a more perfect world, common sense, the collective wisdom born of shared experience, will inspire our thinking and inform our speech. In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.

 

2. Investment: If the ideological extremist invests in charity to alleviate the suffering of the people, we will invest in jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking. Business creates its own ideological imperative. We may start out hating each other’s guts, but when we begin making money together, when we are all given a place at the table, a stake in our collective future, when we begin to humanize one another, then we will be much less likely to hop on to the bandwagon of martyrdom, or go at each other’s throats. Business creates a neutral pathway to peace. In addition, a new and revitalized Middle East could serve as a new engine for economic growth in the U.S. and in the West, as a strong and vibrant market is created for Western goods and services, with millions of good paying jobs created in the process. In short, everybody wins.

 

3. Hope: If the ideological extremist sells his people on a vision of hope for martyrdom, or paradise, or violence, or what have you, we will use An Ideology of Common Sense along with some well-placed Investment Dollars to sell one another on a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom, on the Arab street, in the Muslim world, and in the world as a whole. Albert Einstein came up with E=mc2. Thankfully, the formula for world peace is a lot simpler: Ideology plus Investment equals Hope, and with hope all things are possible, even the impossible dream of peace.

 

4. Diplomacy: If the ideological extremist tries to extinguish the possibility of diplomatic solutions, we can use Private diplomacy to convince some of the key players in the Middle East that coming together in common purpose is the only way of staving off some very common existential threats, threats which loom large right around the corner. In addition, however, as we begin selling people on a Vision of Hope, we can also use Public Diplomacy to sustain the hope, by launching a series of Public Diplomacy Programs which are specifically designed to prop the vision up and to carry it forward, such as: a program to Empower Women, a Student Exchange, a Cultural Exchange, a Media Campaign, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, and a series of International Conferences. Take, for example, the program to Empower Women by financing female entrepreneurs and promoting women’s rights. Empower Muslim and Arab women in ways that they deem appropriate and you will have changed the face of the Middle East. Who are women? They are the givers of life and the caretakers of life and as such are uniquely qualified to help reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope, and to give substance to the needs and aspirations of the people on the street.

 

5. The Willingness to Fight: If the ideological extremist wages a campaign of terror and intimidation against us, then we will fight back in self-defense, and fight hard, but we will also position the fight within a Vision of Hope. As such, we will elevate the fight on the ground to a higher moral plane by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. People will fight harder against the forces of extremism once they know what they’re fighting for. We are not fighting a “war against terror.” We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There’s a big difference.

           

            Selling a Vision of Hope will embolden us to push the peace process forward, to revitalize the Middle East economically, and to counter each of the individual challenges posed by the ideological extremists, whether those challenges are ideological, economic, spiritual, diplomatic, or military. At every turn, we will cut the extremist off at the pass, co-opt his strategy, and marginalize him in the eyes of his own people. We will beat him at his own game, by embracing a vision which inspires in people a sense of hope, and delivers on that promise with good paying jobs and personal freedoms. In the final analysis, the ideological extremist will not be able to capture the public’s imagination, once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves.

 

 

V. Visionaries for Peace: Giving Substance to a Vision of Hope

 

            Many people are working tirelessly to bring about peace and stability in the Middle East, including  political leaders, diplomats, academics and others. Thus far, however, the “business angle” has been largely ignored, even though economic development and job creation are at the heart of what will be needed to push the peace process forward, and to bring some measure of stability by creating conditions on the ground which are more conducive to the quest for peace and freedom. The recent unrest on the streets serves to highlight the strong connections between economic opportunities, peace and stability. Business can be used to create a neutral pathway to peace and stability.

 

            Visionaries for Peace is an organization based on the idea that a consortium of top business and political leaders could become inspired by a Vision of Hope for the Middle East, to work behind the scenes to push the peace process forward between,  and to use that platform as a springboard to help revitalize the entire Middle East with good paying jobs, moderate candidates, and institutions which are prerequisites for freedom. Business leaders bring a new and fresh perspective to the table, even to the negotiating table, including their boundless imagination and their innate ability to get things done and to create jobs in the process. They can work behind the scenes in a number of ways: build Green Industrial Zones, negotiate business deals that will create jobs in the region, use their influence to help the diplomats overcome obstacles and finesse sticky issues, use their vast networks and influence to inspire political leaders and their people with a Vision of Hope for the Middle East, encourage their foundations to launch humanitarian projects which are geared to sustain the hope, exert pressure on leaders in the U.S., the Middle East, and beyond, to adopt policies which are more conducive to the quest for peace etc. In keeping with the spirit of a Vision of Hope, Visionaries for Peace will work to launch projects which inspire a sense of hope, and which deliver on that promise with jobs. A single solitary project here and there will not suffice. What is needed is to use such projects as a new model for the Middle East, a model which will inspire a sense of hope, and which will point to the possibility of widespread change.

 

            The answer to world peace, as illusory as that goal may seem, is not all that complicated. Start with a vision, a big Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity and Freedom. Give that vision some measure of reality on that ground, perhaps a Green Industrial Zone in the most unlikely of places, and soon enough, the reality on the ground will grow to fill up the space created by the vision. Such is the dynamic of change in the world, and such is the prescription for change in the Middle East.

 

 

VI. Green Industrial Zones: A New Model for Positive Change

 

            As people consider the idea of Visionaries for Peace, it is only natural to be somewhat skeptical, and to wonder if it could really work. After all, those among us who are fortunate enough to possess great wealth are often very busy, and are inclined to pursue business and humanitarian efforts in their own private and individualistic ways. Why would they agree to join forces in common purpose with others of their stature? And why would they even consider undertaking such a monumental effort as Middle East peace, including a revitalization of the entire region with jobs?

 

            Suppose, for example, that a group of Arab investors decide that it is time to take the Middle East in a new and different direction. And suppose that they decide to put in place a new model for the Middle East, by launching a highly symbolic project that inspires a sense of hope, and that delivers on that promise with jobs. What would be their motivation? Perhaps to take the energy on the Arab street and point it in a more positive direction. What sort of a project would it be? It could be a Green Industrial Zone, where thousands of Jews, Christians and Muslims would show up to work on a daily basis, and use state-of-the-art research and technology to solve some of the environmental and human condition issues endemic to the region, such as: clean water, food production, health care, and green energy. And where would such a project be located? Perhaps in an unlikely place like Rafah, Gaza; where Israel, Egypt and Gaza converge. And why Rafah in particular? Because as Frank Sinatra used to sing about New York, “If we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere…” In many respects, Rafah represents much of what needs fixing in the Middle East, and a project there, which resonates with hope, and which delivers on that promise with jobs, will send a message that reverberates around the world.

 

             The Green Industrial Zone could also include new and affordable housing, a vocational school to teach young people the skills they need, and a program to fund female entrepreneurs. In short, this model will shine and inspire on as many levels as possible, and will serve as a beacon of hope for all to see, and for all to follow. If successful, this project will answer the three greatest questions of our time: How do we grow our economies? How do we protect the environment? And how do we weaken the hold of extremist thinking? As such, the project will likely attract worldwide attention and additional investment dollars so as to allow for replication, in a bid to revitalize the entire Middle East with jobs. Millions of American and Western jobs would be created in the process, as a new market opens up for Western goods and services. An Arab initiative of this sort, and yes, it must be an Arab initiative for it to mean something, would be the first step, in the long road that lies ahead, to bring peace and stability to the region, and reclaim a sense of Arab dignity and pride.

 

     The idea of Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or others embracing a Green Industrial Zone in Rafah may seem absurd at first blush. However, as new leaders assume the reins of power, and as the responsibility of governance falls heavily on their shoulders, they may soon become more inclined to advocate on behalf of job creation and to make the necessary accommodations in this regards. The winds of change are blowing fiercely throughout the Middle East. As conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate it is becoming readily apparent that it is in everyone’s best interest to take the energy on the streets and to channel it in a direction which points to the possibility of a new Middle East.

 

VII. Conclusion

 

            Business is certainly about making money, and rightfully so, but it could be, and often is, about making a difference as well. In our complex, inter-dependent, and often volatile world, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a strong correlation between peace and stability on the one hand, and economic development and job creation on the other. Visionaries for Peace is one modality that can be used to enhance the necessary nexus between jobs and stability, and to bridge the ideological divide for the sake of peace. It is inconceivable that a healthy global economy, or for that matter peace and stability, could be sustained without a strong and concerted effort to stabilize volatile regions such as the Middle East. The energy and synergy that will be brought to bear by having some of the world’s top business and political leaders working together in common purpose, to realize a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom, and to deliver on that promise with jobs, would be invaluable in the quest to create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world. An Arab initiative is called for to breathe new life into the Middle East. This is an idea whose time has come, an idea which could inspire people from all walks of life to join in, and could become the rich legacy which a few key visionaries choose to bestow on countless generations yet to come. Some may say that some of these ideas are naïve or a bit over the top. But considering what is happening even as we speak, and what it portends for our collective future, this may well be the time, before time runs out, to dream the impossible, and to make the impossible come true.

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